Couples to show their homes to raise funds for rape crisis service

October 21, 1994|By Karen Zeiler | Karen Zeiler,Contributing Writer

On Sunday, William and Debbie Finch will open their front door to a group of strangers -- and invite them inside.

The Finches of Westminster are among a small group of homeowners taking part in the city's first Harvest House Tour, a fund-raiser for the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County.

"This is the first time we've opened up our house, and part of the reason was the cause," said Debbie Finch, whose three-story house on West Main Street is 127 years old.

"Women's issues are of particular interest to me, and this organization is very well run. "

The service, at 224 N. Center St., offers community education, free counseling and a 24-hour hot line for victims of rape and sexual abuse.

The event is the organization's second major fund-raiser this year. The first -- a Celebrity Autograph Auction in May -- raised $5,000.

"That was our most successful event to date, and of course we're hoping this one will top that," said Jo Ann Hare, executive director.

Recent cuts in federal and state grants have made fund-raisers necessary, she said.

Like other nonprofits, the agency relies on "a patchwork of funding" that varies every year, Ms. Hare said.

In October 1992, the center began requesting donations for some of its services, after taking a 75 percent cut in a federal grant that had amounted to nearly $80,000 during the previous four years.

This year, one of its state grants was cut by $6,000 -- to $50,000.

Although donations are requested for individual and group therapy sessions, Ms. Hare said those fees are waived for clients who cannot afford to pay.

The agency is staffed by two full-time and five part-time employees.

One of them is Ruth Gray, who counsels victims on the center's hot line.

She said that the money raised will help ensure that there will always be "advocates" for victims of sex crimes and sexual abuse.

"I look forward to this becoming an annual event," said Ms. Gray, whose home on West Green Street is the first stop on the tour.

Other historic sites on the walking tour include the home of the late Dorothy Elderdice, a well-known Carroll County playwright and historian; Union Street United Methodist Church; St. Paul's United Church of Christ; and Western Maryland College's Baker Chapel and President's House.

Janet and Scott Hollinger, who recently moved to Westminster from Uniontown and are veteran house tour hosts, are thrilled to be involved. The couple opened their home in Uniontown last year, joining other homeowners to raise money to preserve that community's historic buildings.

They enjoyed it so much, they were more than willing to do it again.

"It's a great ego booster," said Janet Hollinger, whose home on Ridge Avenue is the third stop on the tour.

Built in 1924, the Hollingers' home has an "arts-and-crafts style" woodwork fashioned after a popular Sears and Roebuck design. Unlike the intricate wood trimmings associated with the Victorian period, the home features simple oak trims.

Ms. Hollinger calls her home "modest" compared with others on the tour, but she is confident that visitors will be impressed when they step inside.

"Our furnishings are an eclectic mixture, ranging from contemporary prints by Michael Parks, a whimsical Danish artist, to an ornate, handcarved Victorian dining room table from Italy," she said.

In addition to the tour, the League of Women Voters is having a mum and pumpkin sale at Belle Grove Square, and St. Paul's United Church of Christ is sponsoring a concert of religious and secular music at 4 p.m.

For Phyllis Anderson, who will be showing her 100-year-old Victorian home on Pennsylvania Avenue, the event offers a chance to exhibit some community pride.

"The walking tour is an opportunity for our end of town to show off a little and support a very worthy cause," she said.

The Harvest House Tour will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $8 in advance or $10 the day of the event at Alumni Hall at Western Maryland College or at St. Paul's Church at Belle Grove Square. Information: 857-0900 or 876-9147.

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